The Breeders' Cup World Championships® is centered around the global field of competitors in the Classic race on Saturday, but fans of the Kentucky Derby® also had their eyes peeled on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile this year.
Regardless of where the Breeders' Cup is held every year, the Juvenile is the proving grounds for the Derby contenders of the next year. The best two-year olds in the world go to battle for bragging rights as they head toward the final stretches of the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and this year was no different.
Let's take a look at who the new favorite for the 2019 Kentucky Derby is after this weekend:
Check out our Road to the Derby so far.
Game Winner: 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Winner
Nothing went right for Game Winner out of the gate in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 2,2018. He broke slowly, letting the competition get ahead of him, and then fumbled through early traffic in an uninspiring effort. As the competition hit the first turn, Game Winner was pushed wide and it looked like Bob Baffert's acclaimed horse was dead in the water.
But as we look back in the past two decades of racing, we know one thing: never ever doubt a Baffert horse's ability to rebound. The Juvenile is a race that helps shed light on potential Derby contenders for the next year, and this year's trot revealed to us what the heart of a champion looks like. Even in a race where he started slow early and had no breaks go his way, Game Winner persevered against all odds to charge back in the pack.
As Game Winner fought back against the crowd, he only had to surpass 40-1 longshot Knicks Go in the final stretch. As the upset bid of Knicks Go started to fade, Game Winner made a final surge and shot past the leader, winning the race by 2 1/4-lengths.
With the victory, Game Winner now has 30 points on the Road to the Derby and is considered the favorite headed into the 2019 Kentucky Derby. But as Tom Pedulla from America's Best Racing remarked following this race, Juvenile success has proven disastrous for some of Baffert's steeds in the past. Pedulla pointed out that Vindication (2002) and New Year's Day (2013) never raced against due to injuries sustained in the Juvenile. Hopefully the same fate doesn't await Game Winner after an impeccable 2018 campaign.
Kentucky Derby American Road Standings
|7||Code of Honor||4|
Kentucky Derby European Road Standings
|1||Royal Marine (IRE)||10|
|2||Magna Grecia (IRE)||10|
|5||Phoenix of Spain (IRE)||4|
|7||Sydney Opera House||4|
|8||Mount Everest (IRE)||4|
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